Introducing South Africa’s ‘Integrity Icon’ Public Servants

South Africa has chosen it’s Integrity Icons: public servants who do what’s right even when no one is watching. Clinical audiologist from Mpumalanga Sakhile Nkosi, head of library and information services division at the Limpopo department of education Moshalagae Malatji, community health facilitator in KwaZulu Natal Gugu Mlotshwa, manager of pharmaceutical services at the Southern Western Substructure in the Western Cape Helimamy Moeng, and Umhlali police officer Clinton Odayar have been honoured for going beyond their call of duty to act with integrity. 

Following the ‘Integrity Icon’ campaign

In March the Accountability Lab, a civil society organisation that promotes accountability and transparency, and its partners asked South Africans to nominate public servants who work with integrity. “Integrity Idol is a global campaign to find, celebrate and connect honest public servants,” Senior Programme Officer Faith Pienaar said in an earlier interview with The Daily Vox. “The value of Integrity Icon is the process. It is a way to create meaningful conversations about what it means to be a public servant and shines a light on the role of ordinary people in strengthening institutions in a society such as ours,” Pienaar added. This is the second Integrity Icon campaign in South Africa; the campaign is held in eight countries around the world.

Non-profit Management Fellow Rabia Abba Omar spoke to The Daily Vox about the campaign movements since March. Following the launch, the team and their partners “continued to raise awareness about Integrity Icon through media engagement and door-to-door visits at different public sector workplaces,” Abba Omar said. The team engaged with public healthcare workers, police officers, court administrators and a group of Ethics Officers at the department of public service and administration. They shared with them “the need to elevate the stories of public servants who are doing and choosing right,” Abba Omar said.

The next step was to sort through the nominations and choose the icons. 

How the Integrity Icons were chosen

Integrity Icon nominations streamed in from across the country. Nominees were of all ages, races, from different sectors and in different positions, Omar said. The campaign received nominations of public servants working in health, education, and safety. A judging panel worked through the nominations.

The panel was made up of retired Constitutional Court Judge Zak Yacoob, Advocate Adila Hassim, Democracy Works Foundation executive chairperson Professor William Gumede, and Corruption Watch’s Moira Campbell. 

Integrity in the South African context today is “not just a commitment to a job, but also a commitment to the community,” Yacoob said before the judging process. “We must not celebrate people who are doing their work properly as an exception; integrity means going above the call of duty,” he added. Hassim told the judging panel that Section 195 of the Constitution requires public servants to be responsive to people’s needs. Integrity Icon is intended to celebrate those who are “not just merely reacting to whoever they are serving, but [looking at] how they can turn that into a bigger impact for the community they serve,” she said. 

With that in mind, the panel sifted through the nominations to choose eight finalists. The judges then selected the top five finalists from the eight. 

Meet the five Integrity Icon finalists
Sakhile Nkosi

Nkosi is a clinical audiologist in Lydenburg Hospital in Mpumalanga. After seeing how isolated a deaf member of his community was, Nkosi became an audiologist. In 2017 when he arrived at Lydenburg Hospital as a community service intern, Nkosi didn’t have a supervisor. This led him to ensure that incoming community service student interns are well trained and have someone to learn from and be accountable to. Nkosi provides the best care to patients from all around Mpumalanga.

Moshalagae Malatji 

Malatji started off as a math teacher and now works as the head of library and information services division in the Limpopo department of education. Today, Malatji ensures that schools that have well-stocked libraries and works to improve the condition of libraries. Malatji’s mission is to improve literacy, reading for meaning, and support the development of library services.

Gugu Mlotshwa 

Based in Eshowe in KwaZulu Natal, Mlotshwa is a community health facilitator at the Eshowe District Hospital. Here, she ensures that the community, especially those in remote areas, receives access to the healthcare systems available to them. Part of Operation Sukuma Sakhe, an inter-departmental group which working to resolve challenges in the communities, Mlotshwa leads a team of 98 community caregivers, who provide the community with access to healthcare services. 

Helimamy Moeng 

Moeng always knew she wanted to work in the health care system, and chose to train as a pharmacist. Today, Moeng is the manager of pharmaceutical services at the Southern Western Substructure in the Western Cape. She started working as a public servant in Gugulethu Clinic, delivering ARV and ART treatment to HIV positive patients. Now, Moeng oversees the distribution of medication around the South Western Districts of the province. Moeng works to ensure that people have continued access to medication. She is passionate about staff development in the pharmaceutical services. 

Clinton Odayar 

Police officer with Umhlali K9 Unit’s search and rescue Odayar is motivated to give families and loved ones of missing persons closure. Together with his canine companion, Dante, the two have been instrumental in finding many missing people in the area. Odayar also supports neighbouring police stations and private healthcare services to give everyone missing a loved one closure. Besides this work, Odayar does safety awareness talks at schools and hosts anti-drug and anti-bullying workshops. 

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What’s next for Integrity Icon?

Now that the Integrity Icons have been chosen, Abba Omar says the next steps for the campaign is to share Icons’ stories with the public. “On September 2, we will launch the Integrity Icon videos across community media platforms and social media. The public will have their chance to pick the public favourite,” Abba Omar said. The public can vote for their favourite Integrity Icon through SMS, Whatsapp and online. 

After this, the campaign will host the Integrity Summit to award the winners on 10 October. 

“Following the summit, as the Accountability Lab, we will work to continue our support of the Icons, by helping them build unlikely networks of people who can support their work,” Abba Omar added.

The campaign is currently in its filming stage. Integrity Icon will release the short films in September. Follow the campaign activities on social media.

All pictures supplied by the Accountability lab